R.P.I. shows optimism among restaurant owners

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The outlook for the restaurant industry improved in October, as the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (R.P.I.) stood at 98, up 0.5% from its September level. The R.P.I.’s current situation index, which measures trends in same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures, stood at 96.5 in October — up 0.4% from September and its first improvement in three months.

"Although restaurant operators continue to report soft same-store sales and customer traffic levels, they are somewhat more optimistic about improving conditions in the months ahead," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of the research and knowledge group for the N.R.A. "Restaurant operators reported a positive six-month economic outlook for the fourth consecutive month, and the proportion planning for capital expenditures rose five percentage points."

Restaurant operators remain mixed about sales growth in the months ahead. Twenty-nine per cent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), matching the proportion who expect to have lower sales in six months. In September, 25% of restaurant operators said they expected their sales volume in six months to be higher than it was during the same period in the previous year, while 32% anticipated lower sales in six months.

With regards to the direction of the U.S. economy, operators also were cautiously optimistic. Thirty per cent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, while 20% expect economic conditions to worsen during the next six months. Last month, 28% of operators said they expected the economy to improve in six months, while 20% expected economic conditions to deteriorate.

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